Tranel named 2017 AAAS Fellow

Date: Monday, November 20, 2017

The honor will be presented at the February 2018 AAAS meeting

University of Iowa faculty member Daniel Tranel has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science. Election as a AAAS Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers.

This year 396 members have been awarded this honor by AAAS because of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. New Fellows will be presented with an official certificate and a gold and blue (representing science and engineering, respectively) rosette pin on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, at the AAAS Fellows Forum during the 2018 AAAS Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas.

As part of the Neuroscience Section, Tranel, a professor in the Departments of Neurology and Psychological and Brain Sciences, was selected for his distinguished contributions for behavioral and cognitive neuroscience, particularly for studies defining the neural correlates of emotion, word processing, and memory.

Tranel earned a doctorate from the University of Iowa in 1982 and also completed his post-doctoral research at the University of Iowa. He became a faculty member at the UI Carver College of Medicine in 1986, and has spent his entire career at the University of Iowa studying brain-behavior relationships in humans. In particular, his research is focused on defining neuropsychological and neuroanatomical correlates of complex human behavior, including visual recognition; face processing; verbal and nonverbal learning and retrieval; nonconscious cognitive processing; acquired disorders of social conduct; emotional processing; and decision-making. His research uses two main approaches to understand how different brain regions and circuits support complex cognition and behavior: the lesion method, which studies patients with brain damage (lesions) to determine how lesion sites are related to cognitive and behavioral deficits; and functional imaging, including PET and fMRI, to study brain activation in normal participants performing various tasks.

As a UI graduate student working with renowned neuroscientists Antonio and Hanna Damasio, Tranel helped establish the Iowa Neurological Patient Registry in 1982, a one-of-a-kind registry of patients who have experienced brain damage (lesions). Data from the registry have supported hundreds of studies examining how different regions of the brain are involved in emotion, memory, language, decision-making, and other complex behaviors in humans. Tranel became registry director in 2005.

“I am deeply grateful to the stellar role models and mentors I was fortunate to have during my career, including Don Fowles, the Damasios, and Arthur Benton. I am also very grateful to my friend and colleague, Nancy Andreasen, who has been a continual source of inspiration. And I have to add that my passion for science has always been fueled by my students, whose buoyant optimism and enthusiasm have energized me for decades. It is a privilege to be elected to an elite group of scientists in the AAAS,” says Tranel, who also is a member of the Iowa Neuroscience Institute at the UI, and associate dean for graduate and postdoctoral studies in the UI Carver College of Medicine.

The tradition of AAAS Fellows began in 1874. Currently, members can be considered for the rank of Fellow if nominated by the steering groups of the Association’s 24 sections, or by any three Fellows who are current AAAS members (so long as two of the three sponsors are not affiliated with the nominee’s institution), or by the AAAS chief executive officer. Fellows must have been continuous members of AAAS for four years by the end of the calendar year in which they are elected.

Each steering group reviews the nominations of individuals within its respective section and a final list is forwarded to the AAAS Council, which votes on the aggregate list.

The Council is the policymaking body of the Association, chaired by the AAAS president, and consisting of the members of the board of directors, the retiring section chairs, delegates from each electorate and each regional division, and two delegates from the National Association of Academies of Science.